The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) have published a new report called ‘Flex appeal: Why freelancers, contractors and agency workers choose to work this way’. Insights include the fact that 36 per cent of people in the UK have at some time worked as an agent worker, contractor or freelancer. What's more, 41 per cent see themselves doing so at some point further down the line.
YouGov also conducted a survey. Of the 4234 participants, 11 per cent had freelanced, 10 per cent had at some point worked as a contractor and 24 per cent had been an agency worker on a temporary basis.
The report also addressed potential earning in relation to career path. Of those who are responsible for hiring within their current organisation, 36 per cent have at one time been an agency worker. Similarly, about 22 per cent of those on salaries of more than £50,000 have worked in an agency. This figure rises to 40 per cent for those earning £30,000 or above.
There are a number of reasons why people might choose to work as a contractor or freelancer. According to Kevin Green, chief executive of REC, one of the major factors is the flexibility it offers. This kind of work is very appealing to parents, those considering retirement or reducing their hours and young people. This seems especially the case for the 'Millennial' generation, who appear to prioritise a more equal work-life balance over salary and other financial benefits.
Green also points out the common misconception that temporary work by its very nature is more problematic. While it is sometimes considered a second-rate option, those who have made the choice to work like this actually value the many benefits, such as having the flexibility to work around family and a greater earning potential. Temporary work is also a fantastic way to learn new skills and to gain experience in specific areas.
One problem that has been identified for employment as a whole, and not just the HR recruitment industry, is that the government must make life easier for temporary, contracted and freelance workers by simplifying the tax system. As it stands, there is a risk that workers will be tripped up by some of the complex guidelines currently in place. In addition, banks and credit reference agencies need to be more accepting of temporary workers and their ability to manage their finances. Currently, those on temporary contracts are often disadvantaged when applying for a personal loan or a mortgage.
What's more, employers often don't include temporary workers as part of the team. As such, they can often miss out on benefits afforded to those in permanent positions. The REC agree that it is time for recruitment agency managers and employers to turn this around by providing improved communication and increased access to training, pensions and other benefits.